Good, Bad & Ugly with the for­mer Port Vale and Ox­ford United hitman

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

AT THE age of 17, Martin Foyle was slog­ging away on a build­ing site whilst spend­ing his week­ends play­ing Sun­day League. Twenty years later he was a Port Vale leg­end, with over 600 ca­reer ap­pear­ances and 185 League goals to his name. Along the way he played with two Eng­land in­ter­na­tion­als, struck up a deadly part­ner­ship with a Welsh one (and helped him find a miss­ing tooth), and won a cab­i­net full of tro­phies.

And that’s not to men­tion the decade spent man­ag­ing at the unglam­ourous end of the football pyra­mid, tak­ing in spells at Vale, York City and a Here­ford side on the brink of ruin. Now 52, the for­mer striker ex­plains all...


Southamp­ton. I was work­ing as a brickie on a build­ing site and had no am­bi­tions be­yond that re­ally. I loved it.

But I was play­ing for a lo­cal side and Tony Glas­son, a for­mer Di­vi­sion One ref­eree, rec­om­mended me to Southamp­ton. I was 17 when they took me on and I went from build­ing walls to play­ing with Kevin Kee­gan, Dave Wat­son and Mick Chan­non. Mick was an Eng­land in­ter­na­tional but he was a Sal­is­bury lad like me and took me un­der his wing. That team had some big stars

but it was a great group.


I’ve got to say Brian Hor­ton. I worked un­der him twice, at Ox­ford and Port Vale, and he was an ex­cel­lent coach. He also gave me my break in coach­ing so I’ll al­ways be grate­ful for that.

He was quite softly spo­ken to the cam­eras but he was the op­po­site in the dress­ing room – none of us looked for­ward to his half-time team talks, es­pe­cially if we’d played badly. But by the same to­ken, he didn’t hold any­thing against you and would be the first to buy you a beer at the bar af­ter­wards.

Brian is a re­ally un­der­rated man­ager who has been do­ing good things in the back­ground for many, many years.


Dean Saun­ders, my strike part­ner at Ox­ford. We had a tele­pathic un­der­stand­ing and any­one who watched us at that time would agree.

It wasn’t some­thing we ever worked on. From the mo­ment we first set foot on the pitch I un­der­stood his game and he un­der­stood mine. If I dropped, he’d make the run. If I went near post, he’d go far. I re­mem­ber our team-mates say­ing ‘Can we play?’ be­cause me and Dean al­most used to play our own game.

Mind you, he was a night­mare to room with, ab­so­lutely hy­per. You’d wake up in the mid­dle of the night with the telly blar­ing and the lights ablaze be­cause he couldn’t get to sleep!


With Alder­shot, from the Fourth Di­vi­sion in 1987. We’d sneaked into the play-offs on the fi­nal day of the sea­son and I think we fin­ished some­thing like 18 points be­hind Wolves.

So when we beat Bolton to get Wolves in the fi­nal, they were over the moon – they thought they’d got the plum draw. But we beat them 2-0 at home and then 1-0 at Mo­lineux. I can still re­mem­ber them be­ing ab­so­lutely dev­as­tated. Un­for­tu­nately, I didn’t get to play in ei­ther of those games

be­cause my move to Ox­ford had al­ready gone through.


As a player, it would be Robin van der Laan or Gareth Grif­fiths at Port Vale. Both of them were lovely guys with in­fec­tious per­son­al­i­ties who al­ways had a story or a joke to get the dress­ing room go­ing.

As a man­ager, Danny Sonner. My of­fice was right next door to the dress­ing room at Vale Park and me and my as­sis­tant would some­times just sit and lis­ten to the tales he came out with – none of which can be printed here!


Dur­ing my play­ing days at Vale, we’d been to a pre-sea­son tour­na­ment on the Isle of Man. Be­fore we boarded the ferry to come home, the man­ager told us not to have a drink or there’d be trou­ble.

Ob­vi­ously, as soon as he’d turned his back we went straight to the bar and, within an hour, our track­suits were hang­ing off us. For some rea­son, we’d de­cided it would be funny to rip them up and we looked like raggedy-arse Rovers.

Then, to make mat­ters worse, some­body went and tipped our suit­cases out into the kid­dies’ ball pool in the play area of the ferry.

So me and a cou­ple of other lads ended up wad­ing through the ball pool amongst these be­mused lit­tle kids, look­ing for our clothes. It must have looked ridicu­lous.

The funny thing was, ev­ery­one else got caught ex­cept us. The man­ager had gone stalk­ing round the ship round­ing peo­ple up but he never thought to look in the play park.We just hid there for a while, got changed, and got away with it!


Prob­a­bly play­ing un­til I was 37and-a-half – and still be­ing able to con­tinue. When I re­tired in 2000, Brian Hor­ton had of­fered me a coach­ing job at Vale and £100 ap­pear­ance money if I stayed reg­is­tered with the first team. I thought ‘A hun­dred quid? I’d rather hang my boots up!’


Los­ing my job at Here­ford in 2014. I picked up the man­ager of the month award for Jan­uary – and the chair­man tried to sack me the very next day!

There was no back­ing, no ‘Well done, Martin’.

I hadn’t been paid for months on end. The play­ers hadn’t been paid for months on end. They just wanted me off the wage bill.

Af­ter that, ev­ery­thing fell apart. No­body wanted to be there. Deal­ing with that was my low­est mo­ment in the game, no doubt.


Al­ways Portsmouth. I never won there and they made it hell for me. I’d only played 12-14 games for Southamp­ton but they never for­got it. It was a big pitch, a hos­tile crowd and even now that bug­ger is still there smash­ing his drum.


West Brom, the Hawthorns. I al­ways scored goals there. I don’t know why, but I’d al­ways pinch a goal against them home and away.

Some teams, you wake up in the morn­ing and you just know you

aren’t go­ing to score against them, even if your team wins.

With West Brom, it was the op­po­site – I just had a feel­ing that no mat­ter what hap­pened, I’d have a de­cent game.


In­di­vid­u­ally, I’d say Ian Cran­son at Stoke at the height of his fit­ness. He was a very strong, very quick de­fender who could have played higher but for his knees.

As a duo, I’d go for Graham Roberts and Paul Miller at Spurs. They were a pair of dirty b******s who al­ways did me off the ball.

But the hard­est of the lot were Noel Blake – a mate of mine now – and Kevin Ball at Portsmouth. I still re­mem­ber when we played them at Frat­ton.

We were win­ning 2-1 and Dean Saun­ders – who was get­ting mar­ried the next day – swung an el­bow that caught Blakey flush in the face.

Blakey just got up and said ‘You’re f***ing dead’. Sure enough, two min­utes from time, he caught Deano with a pearler of an el­bow that knocked his front tooth out.

So for the last two min­utes of the game, Dean’s on all fours look­ing for his tooth.

Even af­ter the whis­tle went, he was still crawl­ing round the 18-yard box!

Un­be­liev­ably, he found it, stuck it in some milk and then glued it back on.

And if you look at his wed­ding photos, he’s do­ing this weird side­ways grin in ev­ery one!


In the short-term, I’m help­ing Port Vale’s Un­der-15s and it would be great to help lo­cal lads progress. This area was great to me and I’d like to give some­thing back.

Ul­ti­mately, though, I just want to get back into coach­ing and man­age­ment.

I feel I’ve got lots to of­fer and ex­pe­ri­ence of League One, Two and the Con­fer­ence.

I loved it at Here­ford – most of the time.

We fin­ished sixth in the Con­fer­ence de­spite not be­ing paid from Novem­ber on­wards and peo­ple in football un­der­stand what an achieve­ment that was.

We also saved over £850,000 in two months – we cut ev­ery­thing to keep that club afloat.

I’m proud of our work there but it would be nice to man­age a sta­ble club and give out a 52-week con­tract for a change!

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

GOAL-DEN DAYS: Martin Foyle cel­e­brates hit­ting the net for Port Vale

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